Massive outreach to a strong professional network is the best way to find new job opportunities. It’s also a good way to test your personal strategy. You’ll talk with tens — maybe hundreds — of people.
It sounds easy. Once you have the contacts, one big blast should do the trick, right? No way. Unmanaged outreach is the path to missed opportunities. Using your professional network in a carefully planned and thoughtful way yields better results.
Take a strategic approach. Make different kinds of contacts when the time is right, in the right sequence. Don’t try to do everything at once. Don’t let everything just happen when it does. Here are five steps to make your outreach productive:
1. Get started. A mental block may keep you from writing an email or picking up the phone. You may be uncomfortable asking for help. Or you may wait for perfect preparation before meeting people. If that’s you, you may be surprised to find that a month’s gone by, and little’s happened.
Everything will take longer than you might first assume. Busy people will have to fit this into their schedules. You must follow through on the intention of contacting people, and the way to begin is to go ahead and contact the first one or two or three. Get started.
2. Start with people you know best. It’s natural to begin with close friends and colleagues. They’re the foundation of your professional network. They’re the easiest to meet. Talking to close acquaintances also makes sense from a learning perspective. At the outset, you’ll be testing your personal value proposition (PVP) — getting reactions to your target jobs, how well you fit, and perhaps what else to consider. You’ll need open, exploratory conversations with people who know something about you. They’ll have a basis for making suggestions, possibly ideas you hadn’t considered. They may suggest others to call.
3. Cast a wider net. As your plan develops, you’ll have more conviction about your direction. That’s when to see people you don’t know well and people you’re meeting for the first time. You’ll still hope to get reactions to your strategy, but you’ll mostly be asking about opportunities.
This is the time to consider social networking. As COO Frederick who was looking for a new job said, “I can post something on Facebook or LinkedIn and tell 300 people something has changed in my life. I was very careful about that. I wasn’t ready at first. I wanted to get my ducks in a row. I didn’t want 20 people calling and saying they have a great offer for me. I had to do this, this, and this first.”
Before he broadcast his new job search, he wanted to resolve any issues related to his leaving his employer, to think through his new plan, and to develop his new PVP. If he’d gone out too soon, he’d have used up these weaker contacts before he was ready to ask for the specific kind of help he wanted. He might not get their attention again.
4. Determine whether to begin with higher priority or lower priority employers. Because a job search is difficult, people sometimes hope to do as little as possible but still find the perfect new job. They begin with the possibilities they think they’d like most. That’s not always the right answer, and it’s certainly foolish to do that to avoid the need for a big job search.
There is an advantage to approaching your top priorities first: You’ll have more time for possibilities to develop at those institutions. But if you plan early meetings with lower priority employers — those that might not be on your ideal job list — those meetings can help you hone your PVP and interviewing skills. As a result, you may do better in the interviews at the higher priorities. And you may be surprised if some lower priorities look appealing.
5. Sequence follow-up meetings. Ideally, you’ll have two or more job opportunities to consider. You’ll be able to compare them and determine which one is best. You won’t have to decide whether to say “yes” to an acceptable bird in the hand when a bird in the bush looks more attractive. As Frederick said, “It’s very hard if you have an offer. Are you going to give up an offer with X dollars in hope another one shows up in January? The offer I got the first week of October retracts on November 1.”
You may have no choice, but you’d like to avoid this dilemma. Truly massive outreach helps by giving you the best chance to surface multiple possibilities. In some recruiting situations, you may be able to influence timing. Some employers are so busy that they may not notice if you’re slowing things down (for example, suggesting a follow-up meeting two weeks away). Or you might try to speed up another situation or at least learn where they are. Rank the possibilities that emerge and, if you can, try to time them so that you don’t have to make a decision before you’re ready.
Sequencing and timing matters in reaching out to your network and as you follow up on concrete possibilities. Are there other actions you’ve taken to manage timing in your job search?By Bill Barnett http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/01/maximize_your_job_search_efforts.html